I thought that I had stuffed up. I had left Australia with a passport that was going to expire and we weren’t heading back until December. My Australian passport was going to expire in May 2014. It is is July 2013 now. “That is ages away” I can hear you all say... “a whole ten months away before your passport actually expires!”
Well, yes and no. Things have become a bit more strict since 9/11. Before 2001 we were able to travel on our Australian passport into other countries with very little time left on our passports. These days when you apply for a visa from an Embassy or fly into a new country you need to have at least six months validity on your passport. Often its six months after you are planning on departing from their country so you need six months plus the length of your stay.
Even though my passport wasn't due to expire until May 2014 I really only had until November 2013. With us not due to return to Australia until December this poses a bit of a problem. Luckily for me we were in Singapore when I realised I had to renew my passport.
I found the website for the Australian High Commission in Singapore and did some research. Would they renew my Australian passport? Well yes, yes they would! Awesome! Step one complete.
Reading through their “Services for Australians overseas” tab I noticed that there was an email address to contact them on about all things consular and passport related. I emailed them and asked the following questions: Do you renew Australian passports? How much will it cost me? What do you need from me? How long will it take?
I received a very thorough email back saying that yes, they certainly do renew Australian passports. To get the process under way they would need my current passport, two passport sized photos, details of my next of kin plus either cash or credit card to pay for the renewal. They even provided details of where I could get passport photos taken that would meet the Australian guidelines.
I had a choice of passports. I could get a standard Australian passport which has 32 visa pages for $292 SGD or a frequent traveller passport which has 64 visa pages for $438 SGD.
I chose the frequent traveller option of course! Working out the exchange rate and looking at the Australian Passport Office website, I realised that renewing my passport in Singapore was actually quite reasonably priced. It was only a few extra dollars more than having it done in Australia. I was happy.
Andrew and I headed to the Australian High Commission in Singapore the next afternoon. They are open from 8:30am to 4:00pm Monday to Fridays excluding all Australian and most Singaporean Public Holidays. Do your research before you head over there.
On the way we passed the British and the American Embassies. At the front entrance we had to hand in our Australian Drivers Licenses as ID as well as our phones and cameras. We then headed through the metal detector and bag scanning area before we headed up to the main building. The staff were fast and pleasant to deal with.
Inside the lobby they're either playing cricket (the animal) sounds or the lobby is home to a single very loud cricket. The walls are filled with Australian art work. This was the first time either of us had been in our own country’s Embassy / Consulate / High Commission. It's quite a nice place although its extremely quiet (apart from the cricket).
I took a number, rung a bell, and was quickly served with a smile. No queuing. We were the only people there. Now this is different! I explained that I required a passport renewal, she took my passport, and my (horrible) photos and headed out back to do whatever they do.
I really wish I could take attractive passport photos. Sigh!
Andrew and I enjoyed watching Playschool on a TV while we waited.
The lady helping us returned with paperwork printed out and mostly pre-filled. I wrote in some other particulars, signed and dated and paid for the passport via credit card. The passport could take anywhere up to ten working days to be completed. I had the option of holding on to my old passport during that period if I would need it.
We said our goodbyes and off we went. Hopping and skipping through the eerily quiet lobby (apart from the cricket). The sound of a chirping cricket actually made me miss home a little bit.
All of this took a grand total of maybe thirty minutes.
Five working days later (yes only five!) I received a phone call from the Australian High Commission in Singapore letting me know that my new passport was ready to be picked up.
Back we went through the thorough security check point, enjoyed the cricket music and art work, and headed upstairs to pick up my new passport. Again, we were greeted warmly. I handed over my receipt and it was explained that my old passport was cancelled and my new passport was activated.
I could still keep my old passport with all of its visas and stamps. I just couldn’t use it any more.
My new passport is now ready to use! All 64 pages are free for new stamps and visas to be added to it. New stories to be told. It’s now valid until 2023, when I am very old indeed! Ten years with that horrible passport photo.
I was advised to carry both my old and new passport when departing Singapore to explain the lack of an arrival stamp and the new passport number. That way, if they had any questions, I could show them both passports.
Honestly, I did not think getting my passport renewed in Singapore would be this easy. Too easy!
All details about the Australian High Commission in Singapore, including address, open hours and services offered, can be found at the Australian High Commission in Singapore website.